At no occasion in the South is the art of casserole baking more evident than at the bereavements following funerals, which are, quite frankly, as social as they are solemn. It’s not unusual, in fact, to see at least half a dozen casseroles (savory and sweet) contributed to a bereavement table by relatives and friends, but I don’t think I had ever seen such a display as the one I saw in Monticello, Georgia, at the home of a cousin who had “passed.” One of the casseroles was this elaborate beauty made with full-flavored brown rice (which is unpolished, with only the husks removed) instead of the standard white long-grain variety—served, no less, in an exquisite silver chafing dish. All that ceremony lacked was a four-piece jazz combo like the one featured at another bereavement I once attended at a country club in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In a large saucepan, bring the water and salt to a brisk boil, add the rice, and stir. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook till all the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and keep warm.
In a large, heavy skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat, add the onion, celery, and mushrooms, and
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